Cup Match legend and Rangers superstar Eldon Raynor dies at 89
Eldon Raynor, a Cup Match legend who played a crucial role in establishing Southampton Rangers as a dominant force on the local cricket and football scene, passed away last Thursday at the age of 89.
Raynor represented St George’s in Cup Match between 1958 and 1979, amassing 738 runs at an average of 29.52 with a highest score of 79 not out. He also claimed 33 wickets at an average of 25.15 with his off spin.
A solid middle-order batte,r he earned a reputation for pulling his team out of trouble and is fondly remembered by his team-mates as being at his best in adversity.
“He was one who, in a sense, preferred to play when the chips were down,” said former St George’s player Lionel Thomas.
“At times I wondered, just by having conversations with him, if he preferred for the team to be 110 for one or 60 for five. I think he might have chosen the latter when your back is against the wall. He was a real fighter and I think those are the situations that fighters like, playing with their backs against the wall. Eldon was an unassuming player who took the game very seriously.”
Another former team-mate, fellow all-rounder Noel Gibbons, remembers Raynor’s ability to stabilise the innings whenever he was needed.
“He was someone who would come in at six or seven and control things, especially if a few wickets went down,” Gibbons said.
“That’s when he comes in and takes control – and he did that in Cup Match quite a bit. We were often six or seven down and Somerset would think they have got us and then out walks Eldon.
“If we also wanted a breakthrough he would get it for us and he had a big tendency of doing that.”
When he came to cricket, he had it all as he also earned a reputation as a superb fielder in the covers.
“When it comes to fielding he would put a ball right on the stumps,” recalled cousin a Randy Raynor. “I don’t ever remember giving a bad throw. He very seldom gave you a bad throw with respect to the wicketkeeper and prided himself in that. He was immaculate in the field, would dive and put his heart into it all.”
Throughout his career, Raynor had a huge influence on youngsters who he decided to mentor on sport and life in general.
“He was the kind of guy that as a youngster he would talk to you,” Gibbons said. “He had a tendency of helping and that was outside cricket also. He didn’t just talk to you about cricket but about life in general and he was a good person to have around.
“He had an influence on all the youngsters, especially the ones who played Cup Match. He was a good man who did a lot for my career, especially on the mental side of the game.“
Winston ‘Coe’ Trott, the former Devonshire, Bermuda and Somerset Cup Match seamer, added: “He was always trying to set you straight, give you information that would make you successful as well. That was his make-up.
“I played against him in Cup Match and he was a keen competitor who liked a challenge. He always liked to be out there when the job still needed to be done and held it together when the going was tough.”
Raynor played cricket until his late 40s, such was his passion for the game.
“He was in his mid 30s when I started playing with him and he played into his late 40s,” said former Rangers seamer Randy Raynor.
“He taught the rest of us that if he can do it at his age then so could we.”
Raynor thrived throughout his cricket career at Rangers and is one of few players to have scored more than 1,000 runs in the Western Counties competition but while most sportsman are happy to be outstanding at just one game, Raynor excelled at more.
After honing his skills at school level, he played football for Purvis and Howard Academy in the 1940s.
“Eldon, Sheridan [Raynor] and I all went to Purvis and Howard Academy and played together the same time at school and Rangers,” former Rangers midfielder Tom Wainwright recalled. “Eldon was very quick and very creative.”
Among the highlights at Rangers was featuring for them in the inaugural FA Cup final in 1956, which they lost 3-1 to BAA.
As well as cricket and football, Raynor also held his own on the golf course.
“Technically he was very sound,” said Trott, who became close friends with Raynor. “The ball was always in the fairway and he was able to keep the score down. He had a nice tidy game.”
Thomas expressed his condolences to family and friends. He added: “I am sure he will be missed by everyone and I would think he was a one of kind. There are not too many Eldons around and may he rest in eternal peace.”